Basic life support (BLS) is the type of medical care provided by health professionals to persons experiencing cardiac arrest, obstructed airway or respiratory arrest such as cases of choking and drowning. The procedures involved in BLS include relieving obstructed airway, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), the use of automated external defibrillator (AED). The elements of basic life support include circulation, airway and breathing (CAB). Research places emphasis on providing chest compressions as the airway brings about delay which might cost the life of the victim.
When following the procedure, the rescuer focuses first on maintaining circulation of the victim to keep the victim alive as they await a specialized medical care.
Importance of BLS Training:
BLS skills and training saves lives as it takes care of critical medical emergencies. Without fast and appropriate attention, victims of cardiac arrest and obstructed airway can lose their lives. Health emergencies occur when least expected. The survival of the victim is dependent on whether there is a skilled professional to provide the necessary care. Whenever a person is not breathing, they are likely to die within a few minutes. However, with high quality CPR, the rescuer is able to keep the victim alive for some time by maintaining blood circulation within the body especially with the vital organs.
BLS training helps in the recognition of life-threatening emergencies and the appropriate treatment measures. The ability to provide proper diagnosis allows the rescuer to take the appropriate action within the shortest time possible.
Skills taught under BLS Course:
The basic life support course covers the following:
- Starting the chain of survival as soon as possible.
- Performing high quality chest compressions for victims of different ages.
- The location and use of AED.
- When and how to perform rescue breathing.
- How to work in rescue teams.
- First aid for choking victims.
The chain of survival
Early initiation of basic life support improves the chances of survival of cardiac arrest victims. For adults, the chain of involves the following steps:
Recognizing the symptoms of cardiac arrest. There are certain symptoms common to victims of cardiac arrest. The victim might collapse and fall unconscious. However prior to this, they might experience light-headedness, chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath and difficult breathing.
Early administration of CPR provides better chances of survival. The CPR procedure differs depending on age. The depth of chest compressions for infants, children and adults differs. High quality CPR is critical for the survival of the victim. High quality CPR takes into account the following:
- 100 chest compressions per minute.
- Minimizing interruptions between the compressions unless it is to use the AED or change the responder.
- The depth of chest compressions recommended for adults is 2inches while that of infants is 1.5inches.
- Allowing for a complete chest recoil between compressions.
- Interchanging of rescuer when fatigued.
- Taking precautions to avoid over-ventilation.
CPR for Adults and Infants
Under BLS course you learn the basic CPR skills, used to keep cardiac arrest victims alive as they await for the specialized help. CPR procedures for infants, children and adults are different. It becomes critical to provide the right procedure depending on the age of patients. CPR ensures that the victim gets the necessary help to keep them alive.
Cases of heart attack are on the rise due to a wide range of factors like lifestyle, increasing life challenges and work trends. Cardiac arrest can strike without warning affecting perfectly healthy persons without known heart conditions. Whenever an individual suffers cardiac arrest, the heart is unable to pump blood to vital organs in the body. It results in the victim getting collapse, becoming unconscious and unresponsive. Some of the signs for cardiac arrest include: loss of consciousness, unresponsiveness, chest discomfort, fainting, shortness of breath, palpitations and light-headedness. In most cases, cardiac arrest victims are not able to breath. You might also notice them gasping for air. The earlier the victim receives CPR, the more likely they are to survive. CPR helps in maintaining the circulation of blood to the vital organs.
The CPR procedure involves chest compressions. It works by creating an artificial heartbeat to the victim. The quality of CPR given to a victim determines their survival and recovery. The pressure applied in the chest compressions differs depending on the age of the victim. When providing CPR, it is also important to allow for complete chest recoil between compressions. The Compressions should be at a rate of 100 compressions per minute. It is also important to minimize interruptions between compressions. For adults, each compression should be at least 5cm or 2inches deep, and a maximum of 2inches for children and infants
Foreign Body Airway Obstruction (Choking)
Cases of choking are very common especially in children. It is important that the victim is relieved of the obstruction. For severe obstruction, the victim has the following symptoms:
- Clutching the neck
- Little or no breathing
- Little or not coughing
- Unable to make talk or make a sound
- He or she might make a high pitched sound
- Bluish color on the lips and finger tips (cyanotic)
For cases of severe obstruction, apply abdominal thrusts otherwise known as Heimlich maneuver (for both children one year and older and adults). There are different ways of relieving victims of choking and they vary depending on the age of the victim.
Choking in Adults
Stand behind the victim and wrap arms around them just below their rib cage. Without pressing on the lower sternum, place the side of your fist in the middle of the victims belly just above the navel. Hold the fist with your other hand and push into the abdomen and upwards towards the chest. Continue performing the thrusts until the victim is relieved or regains consciousness. If you can see to the object causing the obstruction, use your fingers to remove it.
Incase you are unable to remove the object, or the victim becomes unresponsive begin CPR and continue until specialized help arrives.
Choking in Children and Infants
For infants less than a year old do not attempt blind finger swift. Call 911 for specialized help. Use back blows or chest thrusts to clear the obstruction. If the infant falls unconscious start the basic life support procedure.
Automated External Defibrillator ( A.E.D )
The use of the AED (automated external defibrillator) is critical in saving the lives of cardiac arrest victims. The AED is easy to use even for non professionals persons. It works by delivering shock to the heart of the victim to revive it’s function. The device is programmed in a way that it can diagnose a victim whose hearts condition is in a shockable rhythm. Without the AED it would be almost impossible to revive the cardiac arrest victims. Even though the AED is available in most public facilities not many people are skilled or have the confidence to use the AED. Despite the device being easy to use, certain precautionary measures apply when using it.
Rescuers should use mouth to mouth ventilation, bag mask ventilation or mouth to mask ventilation until an advanced airway is in place. For adults, each 30 chest compressions should be followed by two rescue breaths (30:2), while for infants 15 chest compressions alternate with two rescue breaths (15:2).
Mouth to mouth rescue breathing
A pocket or bag mask should always be given priority when doing mouth to mouth ventilation as it lowers the risks of transmitting infections. Mouth to mouth ventilation provides 17% oxygen which is normally expelled during normal breathing. This oxygen level is sufficient to keep the victim alive and maintain normal body functions.
When providing ventilation, avoid doing it too rapidly or forcing air too much into the airway as it might result in more complications if the air moves to the victims stomach.
In most cases, respiratory arrest precedes cardiac arrest. If you are able to identify the signs of respiratory arrest, you are more likely to prevent the occurrence of cardiac arrest. Wherever the victim has a pulse but no signs of breathing, start rescue breathing immediately. The procedure for rescue breathing:
Tilt the victim’s head slightly backwards and open airway.
For adults, pinch the nose and breath into the mouth at a rate of 10 to 12 breaths per minute. For infants and smaller children, cover both the mouth and nose with your mouth and breath in at that rate of 12 to 20 breaths per minute. Each breath should last for at least one second. Ensure the chest rises and falls with each breath. If the victim doesn’t regain consciousness begin CPR immediately.
When to Stop ; When not to start Resuscitation
Under normal circumstances, the resuscitation procedure should continue until the victim regains consciousness. There are, however, certain situations that prompt the rescuers to stop resuscitating the victim. Without resuscitation, there is no hope for the survival of a cardiac arrest victim. The decision to stop resuscitating is not an easy one, and it’s dependent on institutional policies and procedures. In some cases especially in cases of disasters, the health workers are overwhelmed with patients. They follow certain guidelines in deciding which patients to offer help or neglect which are mostly dependent on the risk of death, age and conditions of other patients around.
Basic Life Support training is covered under CPR and AED training programs. These programs are available online at an affordable cost. There are various advantages of taking basic life support classes online as opposed to in-person training. Online BLS courses provides the same level of skills at a fair price at your own convenience. Basic life support certification is readily available on E-platforms at any given time and can be taken from anywhere. There are no limitations for BLS classes, which makes the course open for everyone interested. Whenever life-threatening emergencies occur, waiting for the EMS to arrive might without taking action might cost you the life of a loved one.
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